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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Copyediting Tip: 17CMS 5.91 on Coordinate and Cumulative Adjectives

I'm a copy editor, working with prolific Indie authors who have a great grasp of the written word. Love my job; it's fun, not work. While I may be the grammar and spelling police, I do more than just that because it all comes down to communication that works, that gets the correct idea across. My head is so cluttered with rules and their manifold exceptions, but my main goal when copyediting is to not confuse the reader.

Today's tip is about 17CMS 5.91, Coordinate Adjectives.

Coordinate adjectives take a comma. Example: "the red, white, and blue flag." The test is if "and" could replace the commas. Example: "the red and white and blue flag."

However, cumulative adjectives do not take a comma. While 17CMS 5.91 does not include this extra information, I've found this added explanation to be helpful:
Cumulative adjectives differ from the "same kind" (coordinate) adjectives where serial commas are used. These cumulative adjectives follow a certain order: Number + Opinion + Size + Age + Shape + Color +Origin/Nationality + Material + Purpose (which all identify/modify one particular noun inserted herein at the end). Note that some sources switch the Size + Age to be Age + Size. Just FYI. An example using all noted categories is: “Three perfect petite newborn cupped yellow French organic homeopathic roses lay on the table.” Of course, you would rarely use all the various types of cumulative adjectives in the same sentence; it’s cumbersome.  Also note that the coordinate adjectives are just one kind of cumulative adjective used over and over. My flag example above uses three color adjectives, turning cumulative adjectives of the same category into coordinate adjectives.
This is fascinating to me. Granted, the editing part comes after the creating part. I find myself, when in author mode, intent on getting my thoughts down before they expire. Then, when review time comes, my copyediting self comes into play.

Whether you implement these 17CMS rules or not in your first draft, hopefully you have a great copy editor to catch these for you.

Welcome to My World, Where Every Day Is a Saturday

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


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